Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Vox has just demonstrated their intolerance for any but the most extreme climate views – even positions which are within the bounds of official IPCC climate science.
Don’t expect climate action from Rex Tillerson. He’s a lukewarmer.
The Secretary of State doesn’t seem to think the US should lead on climate change.
Rex Tillerson, until very recently the CEO of the world’s largest private oil company and a close chum of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is now the US secretary of state. This is not some ham-handed satire or lurid dystopian novel. It’s real life.
This makes Tillerson’s views on climate change a matter of great interest. Most countries in the world send their minister of the environment (the equivalent of our EPA administrator) to represent them at international climate talks. The US is different — we send our minister of international affairs, i.e., our secretary of state.
What does Tillerson think about climate change?
Judging from what we learned at his confirmation hearing on January 11, Tillerson is a “lukewarmer,” someone who acknowledges that the climate is changing, but doesn’t think it will be that bad and doesn’t think we know enough to take serious action anyway.
Functionally, a lukewarmer isn’t much different than an outright denier — they do not support serious policy. But politically, lukewarmism is a much smarter, more soothing stance, because it dodges the uncomfortable “denier” label.
At his hearing, Tillerson tried to get away with lukewarmism. Usually it works; very few US politicians scratch more than an inch deep on climate change, and lukewarmism has very nice-sounding inch-deep answers.
The IPCC admits climate sensitivity, the amount of warming to be expected if CO2 is doubled, might be as low as 1.5C. For the sake of argument, lets assume a climate sensitivity of 1.5C / doubling – the minimum sensitivity estimate which the IPCC considers to be acceptable.
NOAA estimates atmospheric CO2 is rising at around 3ppm / year. Assuming this rate of growth continues until the end of the century, by 2100 CO2 levels will peak at around 680ppm – around 2.5x pre-industrial CO2 levels of 260ppm – 280ppm.
At 1.5C / doubling;
calibrate: 1.5C = factor x log(2) ← the impact of CO2 climate forcing is logarithmic
factor = 1.5C / log(2) = 4.9
Warming from a 2.5x increase in CO2 (climate sensitivity = 1.5C / doubling)
= factor x log(2.5)
= 4.9 x log(2.5)
We’ve already had around 1C of global warming since pre-industrial times, give or take, without any noticeable climate “disasters”. An extra 0.9C on top of current global temperatures doesn’t seem such a big deal.
Of course, the 1.5C / doubling is equilibrium climate sensitivity. If the Earth takes several centuries to achieve equilibrium, and equilibrium climate sensitivity is 1.5C / doubling, we won’t even see an additional 0.9C by the year 2100.
As for what happens after the year 2100 – does anyone seriously believe fossil fuels will be as significant a component of the energy mix in the year 2100, as they are in today’s world?
My point is, being a lukewarmer like Tillerson is completely within the bounds of IPCC science.
Yet Vox have treated Tillerson’s lukewarmer views as if they are utterly unacceptable. In rejecting the legitimacy of being a Lukewarmer, Vox are as out of step with IPCC science as any climate skeptic.